"For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law." (Galatians 5:22,23).
The last four words of this passage — there is no law — are the most striking to me. Usually, the sermons we hear about the fruit of the Spirit is that it is never illegal. The fruit is so amazingly transcendent and yet imminent in our transformed beings that no law can bar actions flowing from them.
However, I would like to add another perspective. Against such things, there is no legal system. We often pride ourselves in our democratic order in Canada, in our freedom of speech, our freedom to congregate, our freedom of the press, and all those other things that sometimes attach to spiritual fruit. While being grateful for these things is by no means wrong, we stray a bit too far and begin thank God that we do not live under oppression or under regimes that would terrorize our faith. How could such fruit grow under violence and terror?
I don't know. Ask Paul while he encouraged believers under Nero's fiery thumb.
Take a good look at those outcomes of the Spirit's fruit again: against such things, there is no law. No law. There is no democracy, no dictatorship, no monarchy, no military regime, or fascist or communist rule that can bar the workings of the Holy Spirit. People living under the threat of military violence can experience and express peace and patience and love just as much, if not more so, than those of us living under political peace and democracy.
Do we stop standing against injustice? By no means! Yet it's important to remember that it is not our country's legislative governance that brings about spiritual fruit. This will grow no matter what country you end up in.
Furthermore, after hearing stories of oppressed peoples within Canada — First Nations, Metis, Inuit, immigrant groups — and their sadness in declaring that July 01 is indeed NOT a day of independence nor a day when Canada became a nation, I am finding it harder and harder to celebrate this day as "Canada's". In similar fashion, many in the United States are beginning to understand that July 04 is not exactly everyone's Independence Day.
So if the fruit of the Spirit knows no illegality nor favoured legal system, I must ask the question:
Where are our allegiances?
Claiborne writes it well in his article when he speaks of celebrating interdependence, rather than the over-consumed independence which has brought much pain and suffering. In his words: "As an American, and especially as a Christian, I am convinced that a love for our own people is not a bad thing, but love doesn’t stop at borders. Love is infinitely boundless and all about holy trespassing and offensive friendships."
Yet is one I would rather embrace than a flag.
Common Prayer – A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals records such love in action. In their devotional liturgy for July 04 — America's Independence Day — Claiborne, Wilson-Hartgrove, and Okonoro write: "Wanting to celebrate the reign of God rather than Independence Day, the Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco, CA, have declared July 04 the Celebration of Yaweh's Kingship. Debbie Gish explains, 'By choosing this day to celebrate Yaweh's kingship, we are symbolically and concretely declaring our ultimate allegiance. It may appear to be a statement against the United States, but in fact it is a statement for the kingdom of God."
I've been called unpatriotic… ungrateful… unbiblical, and worse. No matter. My allegiance is squarely placed on the Creator… the Sustainer… the Saviour. He is the One who appoints all leaders to their places and tears down prideful regimes at His will. Yes, I love Canada but I will not blot out the bloodshed and violence that came to bring about the birth of a nation. And when Canada falls — for it will as all nations do at some point in time — allegiance to the Eternal God of the universe will stand.
Love knows no boundaries or borders… and I stand with Him.